Board of Education Hears Demands from Educators and Community: March 18, 2021

by Lynda Rubin

The fact that one hundred thirty-three speakers signed up to speak at this special meeting shows the need for parents, teachers, principals, parents, and community members to be heard by the Board every month. The Board has arbitrarily, without public vote or notice, decided to cap the speaker list at all action meetings to ten students and thirty adults–whether there are thirty action items or sixty. The Board will choose who makes the cut and who is barred,  and President Wilkerson has actually threatened to cut off the mic of anyone whose testimony she deems “irrelevant”. With only two minutes to testify, most speakers have been cut off mid-sentence. 

All Board members and Dr. Hite were present for this remote meeting. Because the Board gutted its official speaker policy, deciding before each meeting who they wish to hear from, they imposed no cap at this special hearing and all speakers were allotted three minutes. Many of those testifying demanded that the Board restore the previous speaker policy. Last week, APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU,  filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas, asking that the Board’s violations of the PA Sunshine Act be reversed before the March 25 action meeting.

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Eyes on the Board of Education: March 25, 2021

by Karel Kilimnik

Spring is here, and as more people become vaccinated, we begin to see a light at the end of the quarantine tunnel. Unfortunately, the light of public engagement has been increasingly dimmed by the Board of Education and their ever-changing rules for public speakers, which only erodes trust in the Board and the District. Philadelphia is the birthplace of Democracy, and public education is the foundation of a democratic society.  This incremental silencing of community voices represents a failure of leadership by Mayor Kenney, the Board members chosen by him,  and Superintendent Hite.  The 133 students, parents, teachers, principals, and community members who signed up to speak at the special March 18 meeting proved the need for the Board to lift all constraints on public speakers.  The Board must reverse its regressive speaker policies. 

This agenda is like a closet full of empty suits: cryptic descriptions devoid of information; new and extended contracts to vendors in line for their next helping at the education buffet;  the growing legal firms  slush fund.  Will the Board ever halt this diversion of public money to private vendors? We need leadership determined to rebuild the staff and resources lost from Dr. Hite’s devastating 2013 Doomsday Budget. 

The March Action meeting agenda devotes another mega-block of time to Goals & Guardrails™, the glossy scheme designed by people unfamiliar with education and pedagogy. It reflects a slick attempt to codify education and boil it down to testing results with data as the driver, not the real needs of Philadelphia’s students.

Educator and blogger Peter Greene writes:  “Education has been overrun by the Cult of Data….Data is not magic, and educators should not bow at the data altar.” 

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Board Rejects All Five Charter Applications

by Lynda Rubin

All Board members attended this special meeting, including the three recently inducted members.  There were just five items on the agenda:  to approve or deny new charter applications. In unanimously denying all five applications, the Board took seriously the concerns raised in both the evaluations of the Charter Schools Office (CSO)  and the APPS reports that analyzed the applications and researched the applicant’s founders and investors.

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Ears on the Board of Education : February 25, 2021

By Diane Payne

The remote February  Board of Education Action Meeting again enforced the silencing of students, parents, educators and community members through its regressive speaker policy. The Board’s sign-up process has no transparency, so we cannot know how many were barred from speaking before or after the window closed. How many students and adults were denied their right to be heard? How many ways did the Board violate the state’s Sunshine Act?  Both Speaker Lists reflected the Board’s new 10-student and 30-adult speaker limits. This Board, as the governing body of the public school system, has no right to violate the law or its own by-laws by secretly amending official District policies. The Board has an obligation to provide a venue in which Philadelphians can participate freely and openly in governmental business.  Other efforts to engage the public should not be conflated with public meetings where the Board votes on official items.  The speaker changes first implemented in December include capping speakers and reducing speaking time, as well as moving up the deadline for sending in written testimony. These changes were implemented in secret with no public notification or Board deliberation. They reversed decades of precedent that even the SRC adhered to.  APPS members call on the Board to reverse these changes.

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